Amish Wedding - What are some of the customs and traditions of Amish weddings?
The Amish have some very unique customs and traditions when it comes to their wedding and marriage. But of course, these customs and traditions vary in different groups.
And attending an Amish wedding is quite a different experience from most traditional weddings. Be prepared to sit on a hard backless bench for about a three-hour-long ceremony.
There are no wedding pictures, so there won't be any photographers. There's no kiss at the altar or wedding dance. It's just a sermon and ceremony followed by a big meal and lots of fellowshipping.
Amish Dating and Courtship
Amish young people join the youth group at age 16, and most of them are allowed to start dating anytime after that. Boys and girls will not typically portray any kind of interest in each other. It's usually kept a secret until the guy decides to ask the girl out.
Dating is taken very seriously with most of them, and they will not usually go on a date just for fun. They will only date if they are serious about a future with that person. Of course, sometimes after dating for a while, the couple may decide that they are not right for each other and break up. But they usually start dating with marriage in mind.
Once a guy gets an interest in a girl, he will ask if he can take her home after their Sunday night singing. They will spend a couple of hours together at her house just talking and maybe sharing a snack, etc. In the new Order group, it is strongly encouraged that the couple read God's Word and pray together on their dates.
And in our church, the rule was that unmarried couples must keep their hands and lips off. To avoid sexual temptation, there was to be no physical touch.
Old Order Amish Rumspringa
The Old Order youth and their dating customs during rumspringa are very different from the New Order youth. During their rumspringa years, before they are ready to settle down and become a member of the church, they have more dating and sleeping around going on. And they have what my parents called bed courtship.
But most of them will settle down by the time they're in their low twenties and decide it's time to get serious. They find a girl they want to marry and become a member of the church.
The bishop will never marry a couple that is not members of the church. So, if a guy wants to get married to an Amish girl, he has to give up his rumspringa and join the church. And they often get married between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five.
Old Order Amish wedding customs
In the Old Order church, the couple usually keeps their engagement a secret till only about a month or two before the wedding. Then the bishop or deacon announces all the engagements of the couples' from his church for that fall.
Until recent years, they used to have all their weddings on Tuesdays or Thursdays, from October till early December. I think they have currently expanded their dates a bit because there were getting to be too many to fit in those dates.
The wedding is at the home of the bride. And a lot of work goes into getting ready for the wedding. Sometimes, you will notice earlier in the year that the farm, of a possible bride-to-be, starts getting spruced up (buildings painted, etc.). Because they don't have a lot of time after the engagement announcement to prepare.
Amish wedding dress
The whole family likes to have new clothes for the wedding, so there's a lot of sewing to be done. The bride sews her own dark-colored wedding dress, and the groom often gets a brand new suit to wear for his special day. They dress like they normally do on a regular Sunday morning, but it's made special by having new clothing. And in some groups, the girl wears a black head covering instead of white.
The week of the Amish wedding
The week before the wedding is very busy with cleaning and preparing food. And the extended family also gathers at the farm to help, because many hands make light work.
The house or shop (whichever one has room for over 200 people) gets completely cleaned out. And the barn is prepared to tie in a lot of horses for the day.
Every building on the farm is spotless, and the yard is neatly manicured. A couple of bench wagons are brought from different districts, and benches are set up for everyone to sit on. It is usually a very close fellowship, as people are squeezed in.
Amish Wedding Day - Amish wedding traditions
The Old Order Amish weddings last all day long.
Everyone is up early before dawn to get the chores done quickly, and oftentimes neighbors will come to help out. A few women in the church are assigned to take care of the food, so they gather early to start cooking.
By 9:00 the house is full, and it's time to start the service. While the congregation sings their two slow (schlow vies) songs, the couple gathers with the ministers for some marriage counsel. Then they will file in with their bridal party and sit across from each other. The wedding is conducted much like their regular church service. And at the end, the couple stands before the bishop to exchange their wedding vows.
After the service, the benches are turned into tables. A special table is set in a corner somewhere for the couple and the bridal party. And they will sit there until everyone else has also been served.
Everyone has a turn being seated at the table for the noon meal. Usually, the adults get served first, and then the tables are reset for the youth.
I can't speak for the Amish everywhere, because I'm sure they do not all have the same customs. But in the Lancaster County Old Order Amish groups, they all have the same kind of food for their noon wedding meal.
Whenever we went to one of our cousins' weddings, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. But it seemed like their youth barely ate anything. Many of them went to a wedding several times a month and got tired of the same food and eating all the time.
Their Amish wedding dinner consists of turkey or chicken roast (It's turkey and stuffing mixed together - and it's so delicious!), brown butter mashed potatoes with gravy, cooked creamed celery (recipe here), sometimes peas and carrots, coleslaw, buns, pies, donuts, cornstarch pudding (click here for a recipe), and fruit salad or canned fruit. It's an amazing meal!!
An afternoon of fellowship at an Amish Wedding
After the noon meal, everyone just spreads out and visits with one another. Youth girls are often found in upstairs bedrooms, with the boys being out in the barn. The couple often separates for a while as they hang out with their friends. And sometimes you will find a few of the guys and girls intermingle and play some card games.
Some of the ladies are kept busy all afternoon, preparing food for the evening meal. The food will vary for the evening meal, and it's usually a bit lighter than the noon meal. However, they still have a lot of food for the evening meal as well.
Again, the married couples will get served first, then the tables get reset for the youth. Before the evening meal, the youth girls all gather in an upstairs bedroom, and the youth guys will single-file into the room and pick a girl to take with him to the table. So they all go to the table as couples. (They used to pair us up with our cousins to make it less awkward for us.)
After the youth are finished eating, everyone gathers around and sings German songs till it's time to go home.
Amish Wedding Night
The newly married couple usually spends the first night and the next few months at the home of the bride. There is no honeymoon. And the morning after the wedding they are up early again, helping to clean up the mess. Some of the extended family come back to help carry out the benches and get the house back in order again.
The married couple gets back to work and life goes on much the same. For the first few months, however, they spend a lot of time visiting family and friends. They schedule an evening dinner at the homes of their wedding guests. And this is when the families will give the couple their wedding gift.
Sometime the next spring they finally settle into their own home, and it's not usually very long till they start a family of their own.
New Order Amish Weddings
Our Amish wedding customs in the New Order church were a bit different from the Old Order. Our couples got married any time of the year they chose and usually announced their engagement several months in advance.
The New Order weddings are also at the home of the bride. Sometimes, if we had room in a shed somewhere, we would set up tables for the reception before the wedding. But if there was no extra shed or room anywhere, we just had to set up after the ceremony as the Old Order did.
We served a big wedding meal, but it wasn't always the same thing. The family usually chose some of their favorite dishes to serve.
After the noon meal, we spent some time singing together (even a few wedding songs in English). Then our weddings were over by three or four o'clock in the afternoon. And the newly married couple went to their new home for the first night.
Amish marriage rules
The Amish are not allowed to marry anyone outside of their own kind of people. They take this rule from 2 Corinthians 6:14, where it says, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."
Amish are also strictly forbidden to divorce and remarry. Several verses in the Bible talk about this subject. Matthew 5:32 "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Other verses are Matthew 19:9, Luke 16:18, Ephesians 5:31.
They take these Scriptures very seriously and believe it is a sin to get divorced. So they are very committed to staying together for life. And I have found that you are a lot more likely to try and fix what's broken and make it work when you get married with that kind of commitment. Although some of them do not have a good marriage, they still stay together.
I keep seeing the questions: Do the Amish believe in polygamy? No, they absolutely do not! Marriage is one man and one woman! Or, do the Amish marry their cousins? No, they do not marry their first cousins, however, it is not unusual to marry your second cousin (cousin once removed).
*The featured image at the top of the page was taken at my brother's wedding. He married a New Order Amish girl from Holmes County, Ohio.
*We were not supposed to have cameras or take pictures, but some of us were bad enough and sneaky enough to own a camera, and we got some pictures over the years (they were never good quality though).